The Book

Pettis Norman marches through downtown Dallas, May 1971. Courtesy of the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, Southern Methodist University. All rights reserved.

The Pettis Norman Story

A Journey through the Cotton Fields,

the Cotton Bowl, the Super Bowl

and into Servant Leadership

 

An Autobiography by Pettis Burch Norman

 

Coming soon!

Pettis Norman lives his life guided by one basic principle:

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

                                               Luke 6:31

You won’t want to miss reading about the kid from Georgia who became an iconic Dallas Cowboy, civil rights leader, veteran, businessman, racehorse breeder, and friend to several presidents and presidential contenders.

The book is filled with fascinating anecdotes from business titans who worked with Pettis on some of most challenging issues in Dallas — some legendary and some never before published. This is a big, sweeping story spanning eighty years — an insider’s view of sports, politics, race relations and the anomaly of being a successful black businessman in the Deep South.

With the power elite and power brokers as Pettis’ closest friends, the potential to do good was tremendous. The communities in and around the “Big D” — and the nation — are better for it.

Tight end Pettis Norman #88 of the San Diego Chargers is contained by the Denver Broncos after a reception at San Diego Stadium on September 24, 1972 in San Diego, California. The Chargers defeated the Broncos 37-14. Photo by James Flores/Getty Images. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Excerpt from the book:

I was playing for the Cowboys and working off season at Sears & Roebuck in downtown Dallas as salesman in the sporting goods department. People are always shocked to hear we were paid $9,000 as rookies and $10,000 after we had proven ourselves, so yes, professional football players worked two or three side jobs.

In walked a young man by the name of Ross Perot. I believe this was just after he founded EDS. We had a nice conversation in the camping section and I told him about my childhood horse, Annie. He smiled and told me that he, too, had a childhood horse. I vaguely recalled that his horse’s name started with the letter “B,” but vividly recalled that she was Ross’s paper route partner. It was obvious he loved that horse just as much as I loved Annie. I later learned her name was Miss Bee.

From there, I ended up selling Ross a high-end camping tent he didn’t want or need. He told me, “I never intended to buy a tent, but I was so impressed with you as a salesperson, I bought it.” This memory has stayed with me all these years and still makes me smile.

Pettis and Mel Renfro at the soon-to-open Golden Helmet apartments.

Short Book Overview

What a life! Below are small samples from the autobiography. You’ll have to buy it to see the rare photos!

I like the book title. Right from the beginning, it alludes to a journey through history and the African American experience in the Deep South, while also capturing a journey into one of America’s favorite sports — football…

This book was deeply influenced by Francis Schaeffer’s, “How Should We Then Live?” Schaeffer states, “There are no little people or little places.” The fact is, we have “the least of these and “the greatest of these” in our communities, and their socio-economic status is irrelevant in God’s eyes, for they are God’s image bearers, just like anyone else…

The impact of family laid a great cornerstone for a little boy who was quick to soak up the examples and attitudes around me. My parents were careful to instill values and emphasize strong morals anchored in the Bible verse, Luke 6:31…

I lost my dad when I was nine and my mother just after I graduated college — thank God for my siblings, friends, and the coaches in my life…

I celebrate the love and blessings of my wife, children, grandson and great-grandchildren who have impacted my journey so profoundly…

An accidental meeting at a gas station provided a launching pad that propelled me into the NFL, into business, and into my community…

I was blessed as one of the chosen few to play in the NFL… you will hear about my incredible twelve-year journey as a Dallas Cowboy and San Diego Charger…

What an experience to play in the Ice Bowl! My teammates weigh in with never-before-told insights — the guts and glory, the arctic conditions, and the war stories still frozen in time…

You bet I worked multiple off-season jobs — a Dr Pepper model, a Sears & Roebuck salesman, and Vice President of a bank, to name a few…

I signed up for the National Guard while playing for the Cowboys and pay tribute to the military veterans in my family…

My famous father-in-law, Master Chief Harry Hightower, once baked President Harry Truman a buttermilk pie… but wouldn’t divulge the family recipe. Today, it’s officially known as the USS Missouri Buttermilk Pie…

I distinctly remember being on the practice field when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated at Dealey Plaza. We played against the Cleveland Browns two days later. The crowd was hostile, the nation in mourning, and it took years to shake the stigma…

Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “The impossible Dream” has always resonated with me. I, too, wanted to dream the impossible dream, fight the unbeatable foe, and right the unrightable wrong…

When you hear laughter, move toward it. It is an essential ingredient for living healthy and building successful relationships…

My direct participation in the civil rights struggle began in college with lunch counter sit-ins, an NAACP march in the ’60s, a political march in 1971 in downtown Dallas — and I didn’t worry about losing my football scholarship or my position on the team. What’s right is right…

I built the Golden Helmet apartments with Mel Renfro, who became a fair housing advocate and hero…

Jack Buck cringed every time Don Meredith threw a pass to me; Jack knew he was going to mistakenly refer to me as ‘Norman Pettis.’ That’s why Cowboys fans called him ‘Buck Jack…’

Owning several Burger King franchises and later six PNI businesses taught me a lot about entrepreneurship and the keys to success…

There is nothing more gratifying than servant leadership, for instance, serving on the Southern Christian Leadership board, the Boys Scouts of America, and several presidential campaigns. But the real reward was giving back…

My crowning achievement, the Dallas Together Forum, included the heads of Fortune 500 companies who published their minority hiring statistics, changing the way Dallas did business and helping hundreds of minority and women-owned entrepreneurs…

Handicapping thoroughbred racehorses led to a lot of exciting escapades…

Many defined race relations by the absence of tension — the less tension, the better the race relations. However, race relations should never be measured in terms of tension, but by the ability of minorities to succeed…

The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968 shook the nation. President Lyndon B. Johnson invited me to Washington D.C. to speak to students during the riots…

I still think of myself as a kid from a small town in Georgia, so as you can imagine, it was quite marvelous to become a full-fledged entrepreneur while working elbow-to-elbow on political platforms…

The redistricting battle in Dallas was a lot like a Shakespearean drama…

Flying aboard Air Force One as President Jimmy Carter’s guest was such a delight…

Jesse Jackson has been a good friend. He eulogized my late wife Margaret and officiated my marriage to Ivette…

What a blessing to be invited to Prayer Breakfasts by President Lyndon B. Johnson, President Nixon, President Ford and President Clinton, all held on Thursday mornings…

My good friend Charley Pride and I played a lot of charity golf. My golf membership application at Oak Cliff Country Club was accepted — the first time ever for an African American. Charley had no such luck. They declined him at Royal Oaks Country Club…

I didn’t like the notion of “retirement” and was seventy-eight before I made it official. Then retirement became opportunity to do more, undistracted by a paycheck…

Always with “the least of these” in mind, I served on more than a hundred boards, was awarded hundreds of honors, was conferred an honorary doctorate degree from Paul Quinn College in recognition of my humanitarian and philanthropic work…

I endured the loss of my late wife Margaret and daughter Sharneen through an unshakeable faith in God…